Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Find Morels


This is probably the most often asked question I get this time of year and I wish I had some simple answers.
Morels can be found nearly anywhere and nowhere at the same time. However it all depends on where you hunt and what is hot that season. Before I begin let me say that this is how I find morels. There must be a thousand other techniques that people use, including lucky sticks and crazy car rituals on the way to the hunt.

I know hunters in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who find morels in the grass around cedar groves. Goerge posted a good video on the Moreltube showing this at the new MorelHunters.com website. I also know a hunter in Ohio who finds morels annually in a field of switchgrass far from any trees. I have found them in city parks, along well used biking trails, and once I even found them growing in my own backyard. The only rule you can count in morel season is that you can't count on the morels. They grow where they want to when they want to and usually not convenient to where you live or your schedule.

Despite the lack of simple rules, there are a few guidelines that you could try to help you in your search. Mainly this involves a lot of scouting. First, scout around the Internet. You'll find all sorts of references to morels being found in abundance around certain trees (like dead elms). Check posts from past years and make note of what trees are mentioned and when the finds were made. Then learn to identify these types of trees.

Next you have to scout the terrain. If you are new to an area there is nothing else you can do but walk. When I started hunting around Columbia, I went out for a drive on a day when I thought morels should be out there. I found an area of public land that looked very promising judging by all of the pick-ups in the parking lot and along side the road on the way in. I got out and walked for about 4 hours to find 2 morels.

I kept returning to that area covering more of it and checking around every large or dead/dying tree I found. This was slow going at first. So I also followed other peoples tracks and when I saw stumps, I made notes of what was nearby. Gradually, through my own finds and noting those of others I could narrow down the best suspect trees for the area that season and then I just targeted those. By moving fast and checking every type of the hot tree or trees out there I could find 200 to 300 in about 3 or 4 hours. Sure you may miss a few in between here and there moving that fast, but if you keep an eye out, you end up stumbling into new patches that you can search slowly and surely.

In the end that is how I do it every year, trying to figure out the rules for that season by the end of the first week. That is why I get out early and find the first morels. I don't even pick them. I cover them up for easy pickens later. However, the information they glean about what is hitting this season is invaluable later during the height of the season when everyone else is just starting to figure this out.

For example, by knowing the prime trees I have skirted by other hunting parties working back in front of them and hunting out all of the good trees literally minutes ahead of them. If you clean out a hot spot right with a light hand and foot no one will ever notice.

Anyway, spots may come and go, but if you master this technique, you will never come home empty handed. This is how the guys who hunt from state to state do it, I bet. The have so many years of hunting so many areas that they generally know what to look for in each of them. Also, they know other hunters who do share information about what is hitting because when things are hot there are too many mushrooms for even one die hard team to pick.

Sorry it is not so simple, and I am sure that there are many other ways to find morels. This is just what works for me. Do everything you can including bribing other hunters to figure out what rules work for your area. Hunters are very careful not to talk about these things but every now and again after a good hunt and a few cold ones they might let something slip. If you do a good job scouting you'll end with a nice reward at the end of the day. I can hardly wait until I see the first pan of the season on my stove.

2 comments:

Camo said...

I like to follow the HIKERS, they stroll through the woods at a quick pace picking one here, one there...
I just watch and follow, picking `10 to their 1.
I don't even have to hunt

Domingo Sanchez said...

I move at a really fast pace and find 6 times as many as my hunting partner. Ussually I will find one here one there, but when I find one a look around in a 10-15 ft area to make sure its not a patch. I will often times find dense patches of these critters which is why I move at such a quick pace as not to waste time.